Oklahoma Assumes Pentagon Vaccine Mandate in Salute to Biden Authorities | national news

Pentagon officials appeared to show traces of exasperation this week while answering questions about the implications of the Oklahoma governor’s decision not to punish members of his state’s National Guard who refuse to comply to the federal mandate on the coronavirus vaccine.

“I made it clear yesterday – and I am happy to do so again today – that this is a legal order and a legal obligation for the Secretary of Defense,” the Secretary of Defense said on Tuesday. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. “His authorities are demanding that the force be vaccinated against COVID-19, and that includes the National Guard. “

Kirby’s deliberate response was as much a response to a surprising order to challenge the Commander-in-Chief of the Army as it was a demonstration of complex sets of laws and codes that grant states autonomy.

The confrontation he refers to comes at a time of growing tensions as individuals, groups and local governments seek new avenues to fight against President Joe Biden’s vaccine warrant collection. Starting in the summer, his administration ordered all federal and other employees under his authority to be vaccinated, including the military, who are already scheduled to receive dozens of other vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration – all like the Pfizer vaccine which troops are required to take.

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Yet the internal political struggles that have marred the federal response to the coronavirus for almost as long as the pandemic itself have now caused this latest impasse between the government and those who see an opportunity to defend what they see as individual rights. .

“What we are doing in Oklahoma is consistent with the Constitution and the Title 32 law that governs the National Guard,” said the sergeant. General Thomas Mancino, the adjutant general of Oklahoma, said Stars and stripes in an interview on Wednesday. He added that he was “extremely proud” of “the opportunity to help the nation understand the Constitution and the implications of Title 32 authority”.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt installed Mancino last week after relieving four-star General Michael Thompson, a supporter of the vaccination mandate for members of the Guard, who said he discovered his dismissal. via Twitter.

The authorities cited by Mancino refer to the ability of each state governor to deploy their National Guard troops when they are not already under federal authority. Stitt cited these rules to justify his order last week that the state would not take “negative administrative or judicial action” against any member of the Guard who refused the vaccine, despite the Secretary of State’s decision. Defense Lloyd Austin. order to all active and reserve troops – which includes the Guard – as well as the civilians and contractors of the department. In his letter, the governor claimed that the warrant “violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans” and asked Austin to “reconsider the policy of mandating the COVID-19 vaccination”.

The next deadlines for vaccinations begin with the Coast Guard as well as civilian employees and contractors on November 22 and all Sailors and Marines by November 28. Some Reservists and Army Soldiers deadlines are in December, followed by all Reservists and Guard units by June.

Defenseone reported Thursday afternoon that the military would begin deporting soldiers who refuse to receive the coronavirus vaccine, including members of the Guard.

Nonetheless, reports emerged that other states may follow Oklahoma’s lead with their own National Guard troops, while others seem to be waiting to determine how this latest stalemate ends. Many high-ranking members of Congress, including Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee that oversees the Pentagon, have criticized the tenure as reckless, dangerous and hasty. Despite the outcry, the military services have already started to dismiss the military for refusing the order.

In the latter case, however, the Pentagon quietly rebuffed the arguments of Stitt and others, taking a conspicuously sober approach by discussing how it, as a department, would retaliate against members of the Guard who refuse. shots – if any.

“No one disputes that the governor is the commander-in-chief of his national guard in this state. Absolutely true, ”Kirby said Tuesday. “But for the Guard to function, it must be able to meet the demands of the Federal Mission.”

“And so – again – the secretary can and has imposed a legal obligation on the guards to get vaccinated.”

A defense official speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity stressed on Wednesday that the latest dusting does not represent an attempt by federal authorities to override state power.

“I don’t really believe it’s a question of pitting an individual member between the defense ministry and the governor,” the official said. “Rather, he is an individual member who wants to maintain his status and ability to participate in the National Guard.”

The complication in this particular situation is that the federal and state governments share authority over members of the National Guard at different times. Each member of the Guard belongs to what the Defense Ministry still calls each state’s “militia” and is accountable only to the governor and the local chain of command when operating at home. This changes under the second responsibility of each guard, which falls to the National Guard Bureau. It oversees forces when the federal government activates them for a regional or national mission. Pentagon says authority extends to federally-funded military education or training each member of the Guard can receive, including some of their regular drill weekends and other drills on the ground, which would all become prohibited to those who are not vaccinated.

“When they are not on order, they have a constitutional right not to be vaccinated,” says Robert Sanders, a former Navy lawyer with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, now a professor in the Department of National Security. University of New Haven. “We see that all over the country. Unfortunately, those who are not vaccinated are more likely to die. “

“They could potentially be forced to get the vaccine if they were federally prescribed. But politically, why would we ask them to do it? Politically, they fail the readiness test. And you would tell them: go home, ”he said.

The subsequent penalties for failing to meet the standards of a training exercise or deployment like this go beyond simply not participating. These guards would also not receive any benefits for these exercises or real-world assignments, including compensation, as well as any accumulated time that would count towards their retirement eligibility.

And failure to meet training standards set by the state guard could result in the unit being fired. Mancino in his interview with Stars and Stripes acknowledged this reality and indicated that, nonetheless, the forces he oversees would be sufficient to meet federal requirements for his troops without ensuring that they all receive vaccines. He noted that more than 90 percent have already been vaccinated and that the Oklahoma guard could still meet all of its federal requirements even if none of the remaining guards choose to be shot.

“The Oklahoma National Guard is committed to making sure we don’t miss any federal mission,” he told the newspaper. “We have several to come and we do not expect this problem to affect these mobilizations at all. “

And some argue that, legally, Biden has as much ability to force the Oklahoma government to vaccinate its citizens as then-President Donald Trump did in April 2020 when he claimed he did. had the unilateral power to force states to reopen their economies and reverse stay. – home orders and business closures.

As Georgetown Law researchers stated in an analysis note at the time, “the president cannot ordain states or their localities as subordinates. On the contrary, power is divided within our federal system.

For others, however, this logic defeats the purpose of the administration’s decrees, especially for those who volunteered for the opportunity to help protect their fellow citizens.

“The whole idea of ​​duties and responsibilities as citizens of the United States,” says Sanders, “is to be in a position that does not put other people at risk.”

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